Resources for Teachers
Why teachers are important to a young carer
Teachers can be an invaluable help to students who are also young carers. Due to their daily interaction, teachers are often the main point of contact outside the family home.
Although they may be unable to provide direct support, teachers have the potential to help and reassure a young carer just by being aware of their home situation. While sharing information about their home life can sometimes be difficult for young carers, it can greatly help to have someone they trust listen to their story.
Teachers are also well placed to direct their students to support services that might be available to them. They can play a vital role in the classroom by helping to destigmatise issues surrounding disability, illness and mental health.
How to identify a young carer in your classroom
You may not be aware of them but there are at least two young carers in every classroom in Western Australia.
Because some don't feel comfortable talking about their home life, or they don't identify as a young carer, teaching and school staff are often not aware of young carers at their school.
The following are a list of behaviours which may be shown by a young person who has caring responsibilities:
- Often late to school
- Socially isolated
- Unable to be involved in after school activities
- Tired and withdrawn from the class
- Shows signs of stress, anxiety or depression
- Parents are unable to attend school events
How to identify a young carer who may need support
If there is a young carer in your classroom who is not coping in their caring role, they may show some of the following signs:
- Student doesn't want their parent to come to school
- Under or over achieving in school
- Has a need to regularly use a phone during school hours
- Doesn't like to talk about home life
- Complains of backache
- Has few friends, and takes on a helper role in friendships
- Displays signs of lack of sleep
How you can help a young carer in your classroom
There are a number of practical ways you can help young carers in your classroom. While each caring situation is different, you can help all young carers by raising awareness about this unique group of people and the work they do.
The following is a list of useful things you can do to help:
Talk to them
- Find a time when you can talk to the young carer away from other students.
- Ask them about the person they care for and what responsibilities they have at home.
- Listen carefully and believe their experiences.
- Validate their role as a young carer and make them aware that there are others just like them.
Encourage a support network of friends
- Try to facilitate an open discussion about caring and explain who young carers are and why they exist.
- Help to negotiate relationships with other students; remember that other young people can be confronted by the challenges a young carer may experience (just like adults!).
- Help to destigmatise the issues surrounding disabilities, illness and mental health.
Provide flexible learning options
- Allow young carers extra time with an assignment if they are having trouble due to their caring responsibilities eg. when the person they care for is ill or hospitalised.
- Let young carers have their mobile phones switched on during class, so the person they care for can contact them.
- Try to find a way for young carers to be able to participate more fully in school activities.
- Be more flexible in arranging parent/teacher meetings - it may be easier for you to meet at their home or via video link.
Raise awareness in the school community
- Let other school staff know about young carers you may have identified and direct them to this website.
- Organise school visits from relevant organisations to help educate students about disability, illnesses and mental health issues. For a list of school programs running in Western Australia click here.
The Carers WA 'Cloud' School Engagement Program could help, to actively engage with schools to increase awareness and supports for young cares in the education system, providing assembly presentation, workshops for students, educators and parents. Click here to contact our School Engagement Project Officer.
Act as a referral point
- Teachers and other school staff can refer a young carer to Carers WA by completing a referral form.
- Direct young carers to this website and the Commonwealth Respite & Carelink Centres. Call 1800 052 222 to find your local centre.
- If the student changes schools, transfer any appropriate information.
- It might be helpful to the student for you to make the first point of contact with a relevant service provider. Call Carers WA on 1300 CARERS (1300 227 377) or email [email protected].